Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Knitting holiday

Jet lag: it's everywhere you want to be.  Still, there's no pretending that countries in other time zones aren't kinda worth the pain, right?

Somewhere magical in the medieval centre of Aachen
And I got to knit while we were in Germany.  When I'm working at top speed (without scheduling knit-specific sitdowns to get ahead on purpose), I can make a pair of socks in two weeks. I came really close to finishing a pair on our recent trip, even though I didn't pack them in my carry-on luggage to knit on the plane, because we were on a tour bus a lot...

plus, I knit through the concerts we went to hear.
I felt badly about this because I didn't want anybody to think that I wasn't paying full attention even though I can knit on autopilot and kept my eyes on the choirs.  Normally, this worry is enough to keep me from knitting in a concert but guess what: stone can be cold!  And a stone cathedral can be REALLY cold.

The first concert was in the cathedral in Aachen, which is essentially just the dome, and it was warm and cosy

and softly lit

(this light fixture is I think 700 years old now?  and very heavy, incidentally.  and not in use in this pic.) 
I mean, SO beautiful.  But the second concert was in the Cologne cathedral,

which is very big and made of stone and essentially impossible to heat.

Since I'd forgotten to bring my fingerless mitts out with me that day, knitting was the only way I could keep my hands warm.  Nobody questioned me about it so after that I just knit through every one, even though I stowed hat/mitts/scarf in my daypack for every other church visit.

Okay, true confessions time: the 'packing light' concept did not work out so well for me.  Next time you catch me gloating about how efficient I've been, feel free to remind me!

The night before we left I was putting stuff into the bag Pete and I intended to share, and suddenly realized that while it all fit, there would be zero room for any purchases or bringing home stuff for other people with already-full bags, as I knew we would end up doing because Group Tour.  So if you happened to be in downtown Toronto the day we left you would have noticed me literally running to The Bay in time for their opening at 10am, to buy a suitcase to check into the cargo bay of the plane.  Seriously, I did this.  And we traveled over with two big bags that were mostly empty.

Then when we arrived I realized I had forgotten to bring:
a nail clipper;
a sewing kit;
loose wool to tuck into my shoes in case of blisters;
a single pair of shorts;
sun screen;
either of the gel tube things I bought to protect the baby toe that was mashed by a heavy thing dropping on it a few days before we left; and
any clothing that was not black (except for two tops that mixed black and white).  I am actually recoiling from black clothes right now, after years of cultivating a black-based wardrobe.  I think I might be starved for colour now, officially.

AND I had packed a heavy pair of (black) shoes I could not wear because of The Toe.

I mean I honestly thought my foot would recover by week two, but No.  It got worse.  I saw a doctor just before we left who assured me it was not broken, but suffering from soft tissue damage.  So technically, it should just heal, and would have by now, if I could have rested it.  As it turned out, we were walking around ten hours a day on the days that weren't bus-infested, and the bus days weren't exactly slack either.

Some days it wasn't just the toe - my ankle was visibly swollen and the toe itself was hot, which worried me a lot.  I ended up filling a small packing cube with the gear we bought at various Apotheke shops, including the 30 euro tube of Heparin that I only used a couple of times.

Fun fact: Apothekes don't take Visa.

I have to take a moment to marvel over German Apothekes.  We found other shops that do a more North American version of drugstores, selling a little of everything, but the ones marked Apotheke are downright Spartan.  There are few product displays and little to no brand variety.  What they stock is exactly what you need, and nothing more.  And then there is a giant back room of tiny wooden drawers for the pharmacist to find specialist stuff.  I looooved them.  They were like the commercial version of packing light, with pretty lip balms at the cash desk!

Here is how bad the foot thing was: there were another couple of knitters on the trip and they were super excited about knitting, telling me straightaway when they spotted a yarn store - and all I cared about was whether they sold unspun fiber so I could stuff it in my shoe.  (the first one? yes.)

Okay just so we have something for the agony column, let's take a look at the outside of a shop I found in Regensburg even before I heard about it from my fellow knitters:

Is that not adorable?

I bet you would have rushed right in to buy some of that colourful, hand dyed laceweight in the basket on the window sill, to bring home for Trish.  Especially if you weren't afraid the shop only took cash and you'd already spent insane amounts of your limited amount of cash in Apothekes for an injured foot.  (sorry Trish!)

Before we left, I swear I read that Germany is not so big on knitting, but I kept falling over knitting stores every town we went to.  Anyway, it's not like I had so much space after the bag of Apotheke booty went in, and the cute dress, and two linen tops, and the gift chocolate... not to mention the two pairs of Birkenstocks I bought, because everybody else was buying a pair and I did after all have a super sore baby toe. 

I bought this one first, a plastic pair with a totally open toe area which I wore for two easy evenings until they gave me a massive blister on a different toe,

check out the brown/silver vinyl tile floor in hotel #2!

and then a two-strap pair in black unlined leather because I kind of like the look of that style with a pair of handknit socks.  But when I tried wearing them I realized a new pair of Birkenstocks are MUCH stiffer than Mephisto sandals, which is what I have always bought in the past.  I comforted myself with the idea that this particular style is not one that Mephisto produces, only to find when I got home that they do, and the leather is way softer in Mephisto form, too.  Grrr.

We spent pretty much the whole two weeks in Bavaria, which is an interesting experience if you are not drinking beer.  I mean beer is a German thing obviously but in Bavaria it seems like it is EVERYthing.  Most of the group dinners were in beergardens, where the emphasis is on beer and camaraderie rather than food quality, variety, or timeliness; we bailed on at least two of them and went out for pasta and grocery store sandwiches, respectively.  This is what we looked at while perched on the ledge outside a palace in Munich, eating (in my case) the most delicious boiled egg and crisp bacon sandwich ever made:

About halfway through somebody else on the trip asked me how we were handling the German food and without thinking I said, We are eating Italian! It was true, but that was mainly because if you order pasta you will probably get a vegetable with it, and if you are in a tourist area ordering German food you are not going to see a lot of anything green.  There is a huge Italian influence in Bavaria and it was hard NOT to find an Italian place for pasta or pizza.

I love sandwiches and because you can find those at every bakery we had one for lunch every day, complete with the crispest, greenest, frilliest lettuce you will ever see.  Plus, sometimes, a few slices of cucumber.  When we got salad, it was mainly arugula, which is young and mild in Germany in springtime and SUPER delicious.  And asparagus is in season there now too, but the markets and menus all featured white asparagus which I have never had before.  It was often sold out by the time we were eating but I finally got to try it in a very creamy risotto and it was wonderful, very mild and and the perfect texture.

We did eat in one neighbourhood (aka not tourist-driven) beergarden on purpose... it was so pretty and tree-filled, and literally steps from our hotel in Regensburg on a night when my foot was well past viable for walking on.  A very kind, bilingual patron offered to help us out when we arrived so we knew to just sit ourselves down anywhere, and then we confidently ordered the first thing on the menu (Schnitzel, pommes.)  I didn't take a picture of what this looked like when it arrived, but imagine the biggest dinner plate you have, and then imagine a chicken cutlet so large it's hanging off the sides of the plate with just a few french fries peeping out from underneath.  Neither of us could finish but we really, really wanted to!

The concerts on this trip - there were five - were absolutely amazing, each one better than the last.  The acoustics in old gothic cathedrals are truly magnificent and sometimes the choir we were stalking performed with the cathedral's own choir, so you're talking around 300 voices singing the most stunning repertoire in the most breathtaking buildings.  I think it was in Cologne that we wandered into the cathedral while the resident choir was rehearsing, and tears leapt to my eyes because the sound was so incredible.

And that's probably enough trip news for one day, don't you think?  I have a ton of pictures I want to share, but after today I'll try to group them into cohesive stories.  Right now, I gotta go crash, because I am still not used to living six hours earlier than I was living last week!


Laurinda said...

I'm sorry about the toe pain, but glad it was great otherwise

Mary Keenan said...

CAN you believe Laurinda - when I got back I wore a different pair of running shoes that caused me no pain whatsoever? I didn't even consider packing those but if I had, I could have walked so much more than I did. Dang!